Convicted sex offender James Conway has been told he needs to find a new place to live, after city legal staff concluded that his current residence is being used outside of its permitted zoning designation.
Mayor Henry Braun dropped by a rally held Sunday morning on Joanita Place – in the Bradner area of north Abbotsford – to inform concerned citizens that the city will pursue the matter legally if Conway and the home’s other resident do not leave.
Braun said current zoning for the property permits only agricultural and residential uses.
It is the opinion of city staff that using the property to house two convicted offenders and a supervisor places it in a commercial-use category, which means it is operating in contravention of zoning bylaws, he said.
He said city staff looked into the matter and came to this conclusion on Friday afternoon. The property owner, who leases the site; Correctional Service Canada; and BC Corrections have all been notified, Braun said.
He said it is hoped the matter can be resolved without court action.
“I will take this as far as I have to,” Braun said, adding that it could take weeks or months for a resolution.
He said the matter of where Conway would live if he leaves the home is not a municipal government decision, and the laws need to change to keep such offenders from being bounced from one community to the next.
Braun said he was disappointed that the city hadn’t been notified ahead of time that Conway would be living in Abbotsford.
Rally organizer Kim Iverson, who lives on Joanita Place, said she was pleased to hear the news from the mayor that action was being taken to remove Conway from the neighbourhood.
“I’m super, super excited. I think it’s a really good start. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest,” she said.
Neighbours previously expressed concerns that although Conway wears an electronic bracelet that sets off an alarm if he leaves the home, it will take police at least 20 minutes to get to the rural neighbourhood.
Conway, 40, has a long criminal history, including three convictions for sexual offences against children, as well as sexual interference of a person under 16, sexual assault and arson.
He has also breached the conditions of his release at least twice.
Conway settled in Surrey after being released from prison in February of this year but was back in jail 10 days later when he allegedly breached his conditions.
He was again released from custody in April and resided in Delta before moving to Abbotsford. The Abbotsford Police Department released a public notice on Aug. 1 that Conway was moving to the community, although they didn’t specify where.
But residents of Joanita Place quickly found out that Conway was living on their street, and they held their first public rally on Aug. 23.
A second rally had already been planned for today when the residents received word that the mayor would attend and share an announcement.
“Our primary concern is public safety and it is the first consideration in any actions that may be undertaken,” Braun said in a press released issued early Sunday morning.
(Photo below by Vikki Hopes: Kim Inverson (with megaphone) leads a rally on Sunday morning to protest convicted sex offender James Conway living in her neighbourhood.)